Probiotics and the Stomach Flu
Norovirus is one of the most common causes of the stomach flu, affecting an estimated 685 million people globally each year. When you have the stomach flu, you’re undoubtedly desperate to find anything that will decrease the longevity or strength of these symptoms.
Some people have suggested probiotics for the stomach flu. But do probiotics help the stomach flu, and if so, how?
How Does the Stomach Flu Happen?
The “stomach flu” isn’t the flu at all. In fact, it’s not even a single illness. Instead, many people use the term “stomach flu” to refer to a range of bacteria that cause vomiting and diarrhea, including those causing food poisoning.
A few examples of bacteria, infections, and illnesses many call the stomach flu include:
Actual “stomach flu” is called viral gastroenteritis. However, many people mistake food poisoning for the same thing because they present with the same primary symptoms.
Viral gastroenteritis happens when a person comes into contact with any of the viruses that can cause it. You would generally touch a contaminated surface or substance and then touch your mouth to be infected. Some of these viruses can live for weeks on surfaces, so it can be challenging to determine where they originally came from.
Food poisoning happens when something you eat has been contaminated or undercooked. Sometimes this contamination occurs at a restaurant or factory. However, if you’ve left food on the counter for too long or eat leftovers from the fridge that aren’t good anymore, you could get food poisoning.
Symptoms of Viral Gastroenteritis and Food Poisoning
All stomach-related illnesses primarily present with vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. However, the severity of these symptoms and length of illness will vary greatly depending on the exact cause.
Viral gastroenteritis can also cause:
- Body aches
- Cramps (originating in the stomach or intestines)
- Weight loss
- Joint aches
- Increased thirst
- Severe dehydration (which can cause dizziness, loss of consciousness, respiratory and cardiac issues)
Food poisoning can also cause:
- Cramps (originating in the stomach or intestines)
- Fatigue (i.e., excessive sleepiness)
- Fever (with or without chills)
- Muscle aches
- Increased sweating
- Excessive thirst
- Bloody stool or vomit
- Loss of consciousness
In some cases of food poisoning (especially those associated with botulism), a person can fall into shock. This is a life-threatening condition that includes a loss of consciousness, decreased heart rate, enlarged pupils, rapid breathing, and blue-tinted skin.
If you or someone else shows symptoms of shock, loss of consciousness, or bloody stool and vomit, you should call 9-1-1 right away.
Taking Probiotics During the Stomach Flu
Whenever possible, prevention is best. That’s why taking a daily probiotic supplement is critical. By maintaining a healthy gut ecosystem, you increase your body’s ability to fight off illnesses of the digestive system.
However, even the healthiest digestive systems can sometimes fall victim to the variety of bacteria causing the stomach flu. When this happens, taking probiotics is an important part of your recovery; strains like L. gasseri, L. fermentum, and L. brevis have all shown a capability to protect against or improve resistance to influenza.
Some studies suggest taking probiotics during the stomach flu is beneficial because it shortens cases of diarrhea. Prolonged bouts of diarrhea (especially paired with vomiting) can cause severe dehydration.
One study showed that probiotics improved the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis in otherwise healthy individuals. Specifically, participants experienced a decreased duration of diarrhea by an average of 0.7 days and a decreased duration in hospitalization by 0.76 days.
There isn’t any significant research on whether probiotics can help with other stomach flu symptoms. However, it can be assumed that repopulating the gut with healthy bacteria has the potential to decrease vomiting alongside diarrhea.
How To Take Probiotics During the Stomach Flu
While you can find probiotics in foods or yogurt drinks, these can be difficult to keep down during the stomach flu. An easier method is to take probiotic supplements, which are easier on the stomach (especially if you’re experiencing vomiting).
Follow the instructions on your supplement for dosage information. If you have difficulties keeping the supplement down, try taking it with a few small sips of ginger ale. Probonix can be a great choice for a probiotic supplement because of its proven effectiveness and convenient liquid form.
Once you’re able to keep some food down, consider snacking on toasted sourdough bread without butter or other additions. Toast has been shown to help some people with upset stomachs, and sourdough contains probiotics naturally.
Taking Probiotics After The Stomach Flu
Probiotics aren’t only good during the stomach flu, but they’re also helpful during your recovery. After an illness, your gut needs to be repopulated with beneficial bacteria. Therefore, you may find it helpful to increase your probiotic intake for a few days following any stomach illness.
Never take more of a probiotic supplement than the directions state. However, you can increase your intake by eating foods that naturally contain probiotics or incorporating one probiotic drink into your routine. Foods that naturally contain probiotics include fermented foods like:
- Sourdough bread
- Soft cheeses
Stomach Flu Preventative Measures
Besides taking a daily probiotic, there are a few other ways to help prevent the stomach flu. These include:
- Avoiding people who have been sick
- Washing your hands regularly
- Using hand sanitizer when washing your hands isn’t possible
- Ensuring your food is always cooked properly
- Avoiding placing your hands in or around your mouth
- Disinfecting hard surfaces when someone has been ill
- Washing all bedding after someone has been ill
- Regularly taking a probiotic supplement to support gut and immune health
If you follow these preventative measures, it can decrease your risk of getting the stomach flu. Additionally, you’ll want to remain in good health. Besides taking your probiotics, you should eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and get enough exercise.
Probiotics Could Help if You Have the Stomach Flu
Some studies suggest that probiotics can help decrease the frequency and severity of diarrhea, a primary symptom of the stomach flu. These benefits are best reaped by regularly taking a probiotic supplement, like Probonix. Find the right Probonix probiotic supplement for you online today.